Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One swallow does not a dysphagia make

I hate the flu. Soldier-on my arse, I can't get out of bed. For a week or more. Most of all, I hate that it triggers an upswing in symptoms. And those symptoms can take weeks - or months - to fade away.

Two new - possibly related - symptom this past month are voice problems and swallowing difficulty.

My voice is rough and husky ("you don't even sound like yourself") - I can't carry a tune in a bucket (unusual for me) and I sound a bit like a teenage boy whose voice is breaking what with the crackling and abrupt changes in volume. It hurts to talk too. The symptoms get worse as I get tired. It started out as laryngitis, which is going around, but it's now lasted longer than normal.

A few times I've choked while eating. Just a little choke: the feeling that the food is stuck just over the edge and hasn't gone down and for a couple of seconds you can't cough it up again either. Food & drink starts to go down the wrong way more frequently too. It's a bit disconcerting, to feel you have to approach food with caution.

I thought all this was just extreme post-viral fatigue from the flu, which it could be, or it could be a new symptom. Up to 40% of people with MS will experience voice problems, and dysphagia (swallowing problems) often go hand in hand with that. Although I've become pretty well informed about multiple sclerosis, I'd never heard of vocal problems, and I thought dysphagia only happened to people in the latest stages of the illness, so I was surprised and rather dismayed to discover my error. One more thing to monitor.

Things seem to be settling down again now.  I haven't choked since the weekend. As with all weird neuro shit, I have to remind myself that one swallow does not a dysphagia make.

If it keeps up for more than another week, I'll take myself off to the speech therapist for evaluation and help. Like the disordered gait, while it seems nothing much to a regular person, a trained clinician can often identify where the problem is, and may even be able to fix or work around it.

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